“Damn your liver!” he cried to the horse, and then, to me: “If you’ll jest call Joe to ’old this ’ere black varmin for me, I’ll —fill yer—eye up.”
“Thanks,” said I, “but I much prefer to keep it as it is; really there is no need to trouble Joe, and as for you, I wish you good morning!”
And when I had gone a little way, chancing to glance back over my shoulder, I saw that the Outside Passenger stood upon the inn steps, and was staring after me.
THE ONE-LEGGED SOLDIER
Following the high road, I came, in a little, to where the ways divided, the one leading straight before me, the other turning sharp to the left, where (as I remember) is a very steep hill.
And at the parting of the ways was a finger-post with the words: “To London. To Tonbridge Wells. To Pembry.” Now as I stood beneath the finger-post, debating which road I should take, I was aware of the sound of wheels, and, glancing about, saw a carrier’s cart approaching. The driver was a fine, tall, ruddy-faced fellow, very spruce as to his person, who held himself with shoulders. squared and bolt upright, and who shouted a cheery greeting to me.
“If so be you are for Pembry, or thereabouts, sir,” said he, bringing his horses to a standstill, “why, jump up, sir—that is, if you be so minded.”
“My course lies anywhere,” said I.
“Then—if you be so minded—?”
“I am so minded,” said I.
“Then, sir, jump up,” said he.
“Thanks!” said I.
So I climbed upon the seat beside him, and then I saw that he had a wooden leg, and straightway understood his smart bearing, and general neat appearance.
“You have been a soldier?” said I.
“And my name’s Tom, and I could tell you a sight about them Spanishers, and Frenchies—that is, if—you be so minded?”
“I am so minded; fire away, Tom.”
“Well,” he began, fixing his eyes on the “wheeler’s” ears, “they Frenchies ain’t so bad as is thought, though they do eat frogs, but what I say is—if they be so minded, why frogs let it be!”
“To be sure!” said I.
“And after all they’re well worth fighting, and that’s more than you can say for a many!”
“True,” said I, “one generally has a certain respect for the man one fights.”
“Then there’s Old Bony.”
“Have you ever seen him?”
“I have, sir; I were captured outside the Lines of Torres Vedras, and I saw Old Bony eating his breakfast off a drum-head wi’ one hand and a-writing a dispatch wi’ the other—a little fat man not so high as my shoulder, look you. There’s some as says as Old Bony lives on new-born babies, but I know different. Because why, says you? Because I’ve seen with these ’ere ‘peepers,’ says I—bread it were, and cheese, and garlic, and a uncommon lot at that.”